The Key to Delivering Effective and Engaging Training

05 February 2018

The key to delivering effective and engaging training

 

Welcome!

 

A brief introduction to myself: my name is Fraja Hodges and I am one of the Netpremacy Training and Change Coordinators. After nearly two years of being a trainer, I thought it about time I put our training practices down on ‘paper’ to give you an insight as to how we at Netpremacy engage our audiences in training so as to provide them with the best possible support during any form of change initiative.

 

Training is a critical part of the change management process so it is important that it be delivered to a high standard. If learners leave the session feeling frustrated or confused, this can encourage a negative look on the product and the project as a whole. Inadequate training can lead to “bad-mouthing” of the product from trained users to other employees causing resistance and complaints. For big projects like a G Suite deployment, we are often completely uprooting daily procedures and making a huge difference to their whole working life that relies on these IT systems and technologies. A trainer’s role, particularly for, in this case, is to be not only motivating to build up enthusiasm and project energy into the session, but also inspiring in order to boost credibility and encourage innovation. With all the above in mind, I aim to explain the methodologies and approaches we apply to training here at Netpremacy and reveal our best practices from basic etiquette to the structured rules we embed into any form of training session.

 

Our Training Methodologies and Approaches

 

At Netpremacy, we make use of a range of training methodologies and approaches to ensure our audiences are fully engaged throughout the whole training session. Firstly, we apply the “Intro” model to kickstart our training, which is an acronym for Introduction, Need, Test, Range and Objective. Each of these components help to set the scene for training and can be delivered in any ordered. An Introduction to yourself as the trainer as well as the company you work for and their role in the project is a given, providing transparency from the offset. It is also vital that you allow your audience to introduce themselves, not only so that you can gauge who you have in the room (for both levels of seniority and departments) and what their concerns may be, but also so that you give them chance to talk, making the communication two-way. The Need for change is the most essential component of the “Intro” structure as it emphasises why they are there and why the change is happening, providing them with both a clear purpose for the change and burning platform for the product. Test their knowledge of the products to help you further understand your audience and tailor the training to best suit them. It might be that you have someone in the room who has previous experience or is already an advocate, which you can use to your advantage during the session to facilitate learning. The Range serves to inform your audience of how long the session will take and roughly how it is split up. In this section, it is good to set expectations of what the session is (ie. in-depth/focused training on a specific topic, a certain level (advanced, intermediate or beginner), a practical or demonstration-based session) and what the training covers (ordered agenda). Lastly, telling your audience the Objective of the training gives them something to work towards in the session and ensure they are fully confident when they leave that they achieved this.

 

Secondly, we like to follow the “Pose, Pause, Pounce” approach when delivering training. This relates to testing your audience: pose the question, pause for while, and if no-one voluntarily answers, pounce (it’s a good idea to remember at least three names from introductions). The attention span of a typical audience lasts about 7 minutes before you run the risk of losing them, therefore, it is important to make your session as interactive as possible. By asking questions, you are giving them a reason to listen and absorb the knowledge you are providing them, so that they can apply this when responding. Instead of making statements such as “This is what it does”, we try to convert these into questions: “Does anyone know what it does or can anyone guess?”. Don’t be afraid to pause long enough for someone to pluck up the courage to answer; people have a tendency to relate silence to awkwardness and will usually try to fill it, but if that fails, you can always follow by pouncing.

 

A trainer’s best practices

 

There are two stages to our best practices: the first is trainer etiquette and the second is a set of high-level rules to remember. Starting with etiquette, although not part of the training, this can directly impact your audience’s mindset and mood from the offset. If you give off a bad impression before you’ve even started your session, they will have that at the forefront of their minds throughout the training. This stems from looking unprepared or unprofessional, contributing to your credibility (or lack of). To get the audience on your side, from when they step in the room to when they leave, we have adopted this simple routine: (1) arrive early. This gives you time to properly meet your hosts, get ready for training (ie. log onto the WiFi and distribute handouts) and greet people as they walk in. (2) bring all the necessary equipment. You will most likely need to charge your laptop at some point during the day and you may even need to bring adaptors to connect to their resources. Making sure you are prepared for the day, gives your audience a sense of relief knowing that they are in safe and capable hands. (3) dress smartly. The key is familiarity, so understanding the organisation’s culture helps with finding that happy medium between professional and approachable – we have found that ‘smart, but not overly imposing or formal’ tends to tick all boxes. (4) leave the room the way you found it. The audience will be pleased to see you respecting their working environment, so if you’ve moved any furniture for training purposes, be sure to reposition these and take any rubbish away with you. These points may seem obvious, but I think they are greatly underestimated considering just how much of an impact they can have on your audience. They are an important aspect of a trainer’s best practices and are the epitome of the saying “minimum effort, maximum effect”.

 

In terms of the actual training, there are few rules of thumb that we deem essential to delivering a successful and engaging session. One of the most important to remember is that there are no “stupid” questions. A lot of people won’t speak up and ask for help through fear of looking a fool in front of their colleagues. It is, therefore, our job as a trainer to create a comfortable environment (or safe zone) where the audience feels confident enough to participate and ask questions. With this in mind, trainers should liberally praise those brave enough to speak up. So, you want to ensure your audience feels at ease, but you don’t want them to relax too much; otherwise, you may end up losing them to the classic early-morning tiredness or post-lunch coma. To combat this, you should utilise your space; if you’re stood up and moving around, you keep their eyes and therefore, their attention on you at all times. Rather than use your mouse, get up and point to the screen, or better yet, get them to.

 

To round up a training session, referring back to the objectives you outlined in the introduction helps provide your audience with a sense of satisfaction. They can clearly see that they have achieved what you wanted them to know by the end of the session, and if they haven’t, this gives them the chance to say so. Using a competency scale is a great way of ensuring that your audience feels confident enough to start applying their new-found knowledge as soon as they get back to their desks. On the flip side, it also allows you to identify anyone who is still struggling and may need one-to-one assistance. The closing of the session should then always be a recap of the next steps and the direction of immediate and long-term support.

 

Summary

 

There are lots of elements that can contribute to effective and engaging training from proven methodologies and preferred approaches to our best practices (built up and carried out by the Netpremacy Change Management team). In summary, a trainer needs to remove barriers to create a comfortable and informal environment for training, as well as leave space for interactivity to make the session as exciting and digestible as possible. These two main training streams, supported by the “Intro” model, the “Pose, pause, pounce” strategy, and various rules of thumb and etiquette as discussed in this blog post, are the key to an engaged audience and a successful training session.

 

If you would like to find out more about the training we offer here at Netpremacy, please check out our training page.

10 January 2018

The Secret Ingredient in Change: Executive Sponsorship

 

Welcome all!

My name is Fraja Hodges and I work in the Training and Change Team at Netpremacy, a Google Cloud Premier Partner. Having seen first-hand how important the role of an Executive Sponsor is during a time of change, I was inspired to write a post on this specific topic:

 

We recently worked with a company who were looking to implement a social collaboration platform in order to “connect the unconnected”. Their extremely proactive CEO, who acted as Executive Sponsor in the G Suite deployment, strongly contributed to the overall success of the project. His general enthusiasm and eagerness for the transition motivated his employees, especially upon seeing that he ‘practiced what he preached’, communicating via Hangouts and Google+, rather than email. Working with us as a partner meant they had all the advice they needed on-hand. We were able to identify exactly what needed to happen and how, namely analysing key use cases and broadcasting a unified, focused message.

 

When a company decides to make a change – whether this is a deployment of G Suite, Zendesk, LumApps, RingCentral, etc. – the ‘why, what, when, how and who’s must be relayed to the end-user so that the project is completely pellucid for everyone to understand and trust in. These include why this is happening, what exactly it will entail when it will take place, how it will be rolled-out, and lastly who they can contact for further information and support. This should help to prevent resistance, anxiety, and confusion from the offset. As per the Netpremacy Change Management Methodology, at the start of any project, we ensure that an Executive Sponsor is nominated to act as the face of change. This blog post explores the part played by an Executive Sponsor in a change initiative and their significance to the project.

 

So, what does being an Executive Sponsor actually mean?

 

The role of an Executive Sponsor is best untaken by a senior member of the project board, often the CEO of the company. The reason for this is that they are a respected, authoritative person who can aid in promoting change management and supporting the project from the perspective of the organisation’s strategic goals. They are a key decision-maker in the deployment, with the control over people and resource needed to finalise the best approaches and practices for their company; as well as a catalyst for change to get the ball rolling. It’s important for them to have a vision of what the change will bring to be able to identify objectives, outcomes, and measures. This, in turn, will create and emphasise a ”burning platform” – or absolute need – for the transition.

 

Executive Sponsorship usually involves a number of responsibilities when it comes to organisation-wide announcements and communications (see more about the importance of communications here). The elected sponsor is the one from whom end-users should receive any information and updates to do with the project, and is the internal presence that provides a sense of familiarity during such times of change. They are usually a big (if not sole) focus in the elevator pitch – this is the initial announcement and a direct message to all employees from the Executive Sponsor on the reasons and benefits of going Google. It typically includes the end goal and vision for the future, as well as the project roll-out plan and impacts on users that the move may entail. Their named sign-off on communications and senior position build the initial sense of urgency for this transition on an individual, personal level, as well as an organisational one.

What else makes for good sponsorship?

 

One of the top contributors to success for change management initiatives is active and visible Executive Sponsorship. All organisations look to their leaders in times of difficulty or uncertainty to be strong supporters and lead the way – this is no different when it comes to times of change. Senior leadership provides the credibility to maintain and articulate a clear and attractive vision for why the change is necessary and therefore, increase the impact of the messages received by the end-user. Likewise, their overall line authority gives them the ability to directly confront resistance in order to clear a path to success.

 

The Executive Sponsor will align the organisation’s infrastructure, environment and reward systems with the change, allowing for performance to be measured and managed accordingly. Having somebody well-known and influential celebrate project successes is meaningful to the end-user and encourages innovation long after the deployment has come to an end. This also emphasises that this is not just an IT project, but a complete cultural transformation (see here for a great blog post on how G Suite deployments underpin the journey of cultural transformation within businesses).

 

What are the risks of poor sponsorship?

 

Using an influential, senior person in the company for communications, means end-users are more likely to open (and actually read) the information they include around the project. Let’s face it, you’d pay more attention to an email from your CEO, than you would from someone in IT that you may not know! Additionally, when you see an email from your CEO, you immediately assume it’s content is important – otherwise, why would they spend their valuable time writing it?

 

As established beforehand, an Executive Sponsor should have authority and credibility. Without this, there is less of an incentive for people to co-operate and little sense of urgency for the transition. Visible senior involvement helps to avoid push-backs and delays of the project, as well as portray the change as a “burning platform” because their internal position brings value, urgency, and priority to the project.

 

Summary

 

I hope that this post has highlighted the roles and reasons for an active and visible Executive Sponsor in any form of change initiative. Not only do they boost employee engagement and promote the importance of change management, but they also have a direct effect on the success of the deployment as a whole. Having the right people involved and providing transparency throughout the project creates a purpose and a visual plan for the transition.

 

If you have any questions on this topic or for Netpremacy in general, please feel free to contact us here.

Blog post written by Fraja Hodges, Training and Change Co-ordinator, Netpremacy